Chapter 1

by D.M. Jewelle

At the tender age of thirteen, Key Sand lost his first and only love to an unexplained, unnatural, seemingly ubiquitous tsunami of black Indian ink.

The next four years were spent moping and despairing at his lost chance for love, never again to feel the same rapture as he did when he was with her. And thus his hormones came and raged (mostly for her), and gave him all manner of skin ailments, and the hormones went away and his complexion cleared up and yet he pined.

One day at school, his classmates wondered whether he would look good in a dress. It was a hard chance to pass up – here was a young boy staring out the window, a faraway gaze as his chin rested on the crook of his wrist, the growing of ash-blonde hair that waved and swept in all directions across his face that would look a little bit better if he bothered to stop angsting for a few minutes and comb his hair.

So they brought him a girls’ uniform; a white shirt, a tartan skirt, long dark blue socks, a matching tie, Mary Jane shoes. They combed his hair back and gasped upon discovering it reached the middle of his back, far longer than they expected. They plucked every stray hair around his eyebrows and he didn’t flinch. The shoes, thought to be too small, slid smoothly into Key’s feet.

They stepped back, and beheld their masterpiece. So awed was one boy that he took a picture of him and named it “Sad Girl At Window” for a photography competition. It would win many accolades for years to come.

Sadly, Key Sand never knew any of that because his heart wept at the loss of Jan. Jan of the sparkling blue eyes and lustrous brown hair, where flowers grew at her heels (not really) and the hearts of birds sang at her coming (also not really). He sighed, and stared out the window once more.

And so it went on for the next four years where Key Sand would sit at the window and stare, his heart filled with guilt and remorse at his failure to save his bonny love, while his classmates, curious and somewhat marvelled by the beauty strange raging hormones wrought, would bring all manner of weird articles of clothing for him to put on until a vicious acne breakout on his fifteenth June put a halt to the tomfoolery.

It cleared up the following month, and the cross-dressing resumed. Not that Key Sand cared, he was too busy pining.

So the years came to pass, and it was time for graduation, and Key Sand, somehow, SOMEHOW, by the good graces of Plot Devices and whatever common sense not possessed by the memory of his deceased Jan, passed his exams and was made class valedictorian, and when the time came for him to make his speech, he stepped up to the podium, looked at the sea of uniformed students, in their crisp white shirts and ties and finely-combed hair, and turned around to face the teachers seated on the stage, they too in crisp white shirts and pressed jackets and blouses with stoic expressions. He looked down at his feet and finally, FINALLY, noticed the leather Mary Janes, the long blue socks hugging the curves of his white calves, the pleats of the too-short tartan skirt folded and overlapping, brushing against his thighs, prickly and coarse albeit rather pleasing to the eye.

He blinked once, twice; the microphone picked up his sharp draw of breath.

Thus the first words of Key Sand after 4 years of despair, mourning, and anguished silence were:

“…Why am I wearing a skirt?”

The hall roared with laughter and the chairs and skirts and pants of many students stained with tears of mirth, a teacher or two doubled over onto the stage, clutching their stomachs in pain from too much laughing, and it was hilarious, and all was good.

Except for Key Sand, who still had no idea why he was in a skirt.